Friday, June 20, 2014

Popeye and the Spinach Engine

Let's leave aside the larger implications of railroad franchising rights for the time being.  That's more for the wonks over at the World Socialist Web Site.  No, we and Bluto and Popeye know what's really at stake here: whoever wins the big railroad race gets a kiss from Olive Oyl.  Arguably, the douche-nozzles over at Maxim magazine probably think Olive's too skinny, for starters, but at the time she was the "it" girl, right after Betty Boop and about a hundred other girls.  Still, she's the girl, much like Isabella Rosselini is still the spokesgirl for Lancôme.  She is her character from Death Becomes Her after all!
Anyway, I better get back on track here.  Bluto sabotages Popeye's engine before the race begins, and plot events conspire to get Olive onto Bluto's train before he takes off.  Also, Wimpy's hamburgers sound more like celery as he eats them.
.........AND THEY'RE OFF!  Thanks to Bluto's underhandedness, he gets the early lead.  But Popeye crawls into his burning engine, unclogs the clog, and soon enough, Popeye's neck and neck with Bluto!  Popeye apparently has an advantage, what with his train being about a third the size of Bluto's.
And so, Bluto starts shoveling coal like a madman.  He discovers Olive in the coal car, but only when she's sitting in his shovel.  But Bluto's nothing if not a gentleman, and he waits until he wins to steal a kiss from Olive.  In the meantime, he puts Olive to work shoveling coal into the boiler.  She sees Popeye's train alongside Bluto's, and rightly decides that riding with Popeye would be, like, way more pleasant.  Oh why does animation-dom's oldest and most favourite love triangle always get a clean mental slate with each picture?
But Olive's nothing if not a constant screw-up, and sure enough, she slips while trying to board Popeye's train.  Soon, Bluto and Popeye are fighting over her like they fought over Short Round in Temple of Doom.  Olive eventually joins Popeye, and this exciting race continues.  Time for Bluto's second sabotage: "You got a leak!" says Bluto as he punctures a hole in Popeye's engine.  And of course, Popeye's engine deflates like a balloon.  Popeye quickly re-inflates his train's engine, using a candle to warm up a tea kettle, and some rubber tubing to channel the steam to re-inflate the engine.  After the engine's back to normal, much like the Stooges' cakes after pumping them up with hydrogen gas, Popeye puts two small pieces of tape over Bluto's puncture hole, and off they go again.  Don't think about that too much, metallurgists or otherwise.  Besides, I have to dock the filmmakers a few points for reusing the same footage of Popeye without Olive on board.  A rushed production!  What next?  They'll let that spendthrift madman Gene Deitch loose on the Popeye franchise?... oh, right.  BOI-OI-OIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyway... the race is still neck and neck until the next obstacle.  Spoiler alert: only in a cartoon.  Both trains make it across okay, but only because Popeye and Bluto hold hands, if only briefly.  Bluto uncharacteristically thanks Popeye, and then, more characteristically, but still a bit over the top even for Bluto, he hits Popeye on the head with a wrench.  Popeye recovers after Olive says Bluto will get to kiss her if he wins the race.  Popeye gets mad and, with one last piece of coal, he fires up the engine to once again get neck and neck with Bluto.  And once again, Olive's not on the train anymore!  Bad work, filmmakers, bad work.  Hang your heads in shame.
And then, Bluto's third sabotage: Bluto grabs the drive shaft of Popeye's train.  Only in a cartoon.  "Your drive shaft is loose!" sneers Bluto as he throws it away.  Popeye stops the train and takes over as drive shaft.  Dude!  He hasn't even eaten any spinach yet!  One last sabotage from Bluto: Bluto hits the... you know, the thing that diverts a train to a second track.  Popeye's train veers off the main race route and crashes into a water tower.  Now, unlike when Buster Keaton broke his back on a railroad track thanks to a gushing stream of water from a water tower, Popeye's okay, but his train gets totally destroyed.  Also, Olive's nowhere to be found.  Well, an explosion ain't no place for a lady, as Popeye might say.  Oh, it's spinach time.  It is so time for the spinach.
And so, Popeye eats his two-tone spinach and quickly reassembles his train.  Hmm!  Seems to be an amalgam of the original train and the water tower... and parts of either a spaceship or a cruise ship.  His new train is now a giant, streamlined behemoth.  One last ingredient: Olive Oyl, and they're off to win the race.  I guess this is Popeye's way of admitting that his original train was kinda crappy... kinda really crappy.
Popeye's train easily zips past Bluto's, and Bluto's train spins around, turning into a heap beside the tracks... hey!  That's a Disney sound effect!  They should sue.  You know, just to send a message.
And so, Popeye and Olive get a celebratory wreath with a franchise contract on it.  No lyrics about winning?  Oh well.  At least the plot was halfway decent.

Good double bill with: Car-azy Drivers... okay, maybe not, but still... there's something about that one!  I spent way too long trying to find it again.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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